New Orleans Cocktails Stir Up Memories You can sit at the bar at Commander's Palace in New Orleans and drink history. Order a Sazerac — it's the very first cocktail, dating back to the early 1800s, concocted by Antoine Peychaud of his own bitters and Sazerac cognac for extra zest.
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New Orleans Cocktails Stir Up Memories

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New Orleans Cocktails Stir Up Memories

New Orleans Cocktails Stir Up Memories

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: NPR's Noah Adams went to meet them.

NOAH ADAMS: They are well known here in New Orleans, they preside over Commander's Palace and Cafe Adelaide. The cafe is fairly new, Commander's though, Commander's almost officially had the adjective legendary attached to it. The women are first cousins, Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan.

TI ADELAIDE MARTIN: I could have never really left New Orleans. And we just objected to cocktails being left in the dust and we mostly object to bad cocktails.

LALLY BRENNAN: And that's what we're saying. We're saying send your cocktail back if it's not the way you want it: fresh ingredients, fresh juices, a nice balance, the right kind of top shelf liquor, the right kind of ice. The cocktail revolution demand good cocktails.

ADAMS: We sit at an upstairs table at Commanders before lunchtime, several glasses in front of us including one that is reddish orange and inviting. It's the Sazerac. They write in the book, we are Sazerac evangelists. Perhaps cocktails would never have caught on if the original one wasn't such a perfect concoction.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: Most often you will get this and it will taste like medicine or it will taste like sugar, and it shouldn't. It should be a balance. You must have Peychaud's bitters.

ADAMS: Better spell Peychaud's.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: P-E-Y-C-H-A-U-D's. And he was in an apothecary here in New Orleans.

ADAMS: And that apothecary is where the word cocktails comes from. Antoine Peychaud had to shop in the French quarter. As a tonic, he would give his costumers a mixture of bitters and cognac. He served the drinks in egg cups, the French word would be coquetier. That word became, eventually, cocktails.

: Brandy Milk Punch and Tequila Mockingbird Number Two.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: So all you do is combine the ingredients and shake, shake, shake, and then pour it into your pre-chilled glass.

ADAMS: The cousins, Martin and Brennan, also offer up what they call Blurry Memories. This comes from their right of passage teenage years. And the drink is brandy and rum, it's called Between The Sheets.

BRENNAN: We thought we were so grown up and then we realize that our parents had done the exact same thing.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: Right.

BRENNAN: The generation before us. Same drink, same bar.

ADAMS: Lally Brennan and her cousin Ti Adelaide Martin say in their restaurants the bar can now be the exciting place to learn a new profession.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: Just like what was happening with cooking when we were growing up, and we were here in the kitchen with, you know, Paul Prudhomme, and, you know, when people were starting to respect the profession of cooking. That is now beginning to happen with bartenders.

ADAMS: And a nightcap thought for Adelaide Martin, going back to the Sazerac and balance in mixing as well as drinking.

ADELAIDE MARTIN: Try to take the pith off, which would be that their part, you know, the lemon rind in what you're really trying to get is a little bit of the oil of the lemon peel in there. And then if you it just so then it will all be in balance.

ADAMS: I'm going to check it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: I like to start with a Sazerac tea likes to end the evening with the Sazerac.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ADELAIDE MARTIN: It's definitely a sipping drink. And as we say in the book, you're not nearly as attractive as you think you are after two, so do just have one.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ADAMS: Noah Adams, NPR News, New Orleans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

: Have a happy new year. I'm Renee Montagne.

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